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David Hume
Chapter VIII Hume among his Friends


Hume, more than most men of his time, is known by his books. His writings have this peculiar value, that they shew the reader much of his individuality. He deals so largely with the moral and religious life, in practical as well as in philosophical aspects, that the pages reveal the man, whereas it often happens that a man's writings are a veil, not infrequently a screen, concealing the author.

When we pass from Hume's literary efforts to his social life, the man is again revealed. By a series of reflected pictures, vividly accurate, his image seems thrown on a mirror. The social life appears broadly, and the large variety of interest, notwithstanding his seclusion, often extends over long periods. He is ' sociable, though he lives in solitude' (Burton, I., p. 226), M.S. Royal Society, Ed. One has only to name a selection of those with whom he enjoyed the intimacy of friendship, in order to suggest the biographical value of these friendships, and of the records of them which survive. This will be obvious by mere reference to his friendship with Adam Smith, who stands out prominently in the circle of chosen companions; with Strahan, his publisher and literary adviser, to whom he is drawn closer as the work of life advances; with Home, author of Douglas, illustrating his generous interest in the literary success of others; with Rousseau, resulting from his residence in Paris, in course of which we see the tenderness and generous spirit of the man, though all ends in vexatious failure; and his friendship with the Countess de Boufflers, to whom he is attracted by her striking intellectual gifts, and with whom he sympathises in her times of perplexity and adversity.

Intellectual ability in all its phases finds a ready admiration. After that, he is attracted to social life by his appreciation of social pleasantries, of unrestrained talk on well-chosen themes, and of free banter, attended with jest which has no bitterness in it,—a freedom dear to him, in accordance with the customs of his country.

What he was in disposition and tendency his friends had to accept; and for the most part they found no great difficulty in maintaining regard for one who had a large share of dogmatism in his conversation, without the Johnsonian gruffness. From his early days to life's close, literary ambition was the main-spring in his life ; next, there was in him, along with love of truth, a strong critical spirit, rejoicing in suspense of judgment and in doubt; and, along with these, an intense social instinct, which to a man largely severed from family ties, brought, in the unrestrained hours of leisure, the comfort and quietly stimulating effects of social interest, with play of fancy and of feeling. These things indicate how much Hume sought, and how much he gave, within the privileged circle of chosen friends.

Edinburgh, the city of his birth, continued to Hume the centre of attraction all his life through, finding the town 1 the true scene for a man of letters.' Ninewells was his retreat when study demanded seclusion. It was the home centre while his mother lived ; it continued his cherished retreat after his brother was owner, his sister-in-law at the head of her own family circle, and his nephews were gathering the fresh associations of early life. The circle attracted him, but the quietness of the place was an allurement dear to a philosopher. But Edinburgh commanded his loyal attachment throughout. It was the city of his abode, the centre of his friendships. Whatever the inducements calling him away, he left it with a grudge; when engagements elsewhere were closed, he always returned with delightful anticipation of renewed enjoyment of his social surroundings. Edinburgh was to Hume what it afterwards became to Robert Louis Stevenson, though it was more a centre of lifelong friendships to Hume than to Stevenson, who found in Samoa the attractive climate favourable to one in feeble health.

Hume experienced no serious discomfort in the cold of an Edinburgh winter and spring. He could even write to a friend who was to occupy his house, that one of the rooms in it was so comfortable that there was no need for a fire there, even on a cold night. His native city was his chosen dwelling. He had his earlier abode at different points in the historic line of street from the Castle to Holyrood. Once in the Canon-gate, well down the line towards the Palace, afterwards in the Lawnmarket in James's Court, almost under the shadow of the Castle walls, in one of the high lands, with grand prospect looking across the Firth of Forth to Fife. Latterly he had his abode in the New Town, beyond the Nor' Loch, where he built a house on the rising ground on which St Andrew Square now stands. A wag wrote with chalk upon its wall, ' Saint David,' which being reported to its owner, he replied, ' Many a better man has been made a saint.' The name became a fixture, for the street is still known as St David Street. At whatever point in it he fixed his dwelling, the city, its society, and its surroundings concentrated the living interests of the philosophic historian.

Only once did he hesitate as to the place of his settled abode, but then the hesitation was serious. It was when his duties as Secretary to the Embassy in Paris came to a close. The attentions and flatteries lavished on him there stood in strong contrast with the suspicions and condemnation which met him in Edinburgh. ' Edinburgh has many objections and many allurements,' he wrote. Quite seriously he thought of seeking some genial retreat in France. Adam Smith remonstrated with him against such a choice, and wrote to Millar, the bookseller, asking him to advise Hume against separation from his life-long interests. ' He is light-headed, tell him, when he talks of coming to spend the remainder of his days here (Paris) or in France.' * Hume soon came to be of Smith's opinion, and decided against settling in France, fearing that he should be drawn ' into engagements with princes and great lords and ladies.' He returned to Scotland. The good fortune of being nominated by Mr Conway to the position of Under-Secretary of State transferred him to London for a time, but there the power of the magnet in Edinburgh was felt as strongly as before.

Among his friends the most intimate was Adam Smith, the Kirkcaldy boy, twelve years his junior, son of the Comptroller of Customs in the ' lang toun,' a Writer to the Signet, and Judge Advocate Depute for Scotland. The historian and the economist, afterwards author of The Wealth of Nations, became fast friends. A biographer cannot write of the one without writing of the other.

In early life Hume and Smith dwelt remote from each other. Chirnside and Kirkcaldy were far apart. Their intimacy did not come from boyhood years, but from their early manhood, when Hume was author of the Treatise, and the younger man a student at Glasgow University, having an eye on the ' Snell' Bursary, which would open the way to Oxford. After Smith's return from Oxford he was at Kirkcaldy from 1746 to 1748; Hume was then absent on the Continent as Secretary to General St Clair when on his mission to the Court of Turin. By the influence of Henry Home of Kames (afterwards Lord Kames) and James Oswald of Dunkier, young Smith came to Edinburgh to deliver a course of lectures on English Literature. This course was largely attended by members of the bar, clergymen, and leading citizens. These lectures were given throughout three successive winters, until the lecturer was appointed Professor of Philosophy in the University of Glasgow. Through the friendly intervention of Home and Oswald, Hume and Smith became acquainted, and soon they were fast friends, sharing in a multitude of literary, philosophic, and patriotic interests. They were of opposite schools of politics— Hume Tory, Smith Liberal—but this was no obstacle to deepest friendship. From this time there was laid the foundation of a lifelong intimacy. So strong was the mutual attachment that it was to Hume an additional attraction to the view from the high windows in James's Court that it included Kirkcaldy, the dwelling-place of Adam Smith, whilst Smith addressed Hume as ' My dearest friend.' In his valuable Life of Adam Smith, Rae fitly names it'a memorable Roman friendship ' (p. 105). When the end of life approached, and Hume prepared his will, ' My friend, Dr Adam Smith, late Professor of Moral Philosophy in Glasgow,' is named as literary executor to carry out his most cherished desires.

From the first Hume valued Smith as a profound and original thinker; Smith looked up to Hume as one who had greatly influenced him by his Treatise in those days when he, as junior, was only a student in Glasgow, under the teaching of Hutchison, Professor of Moral Philosophy. That Hume was twelve years older than his friend was a fact that did nothing to abate the frankness of the elder, or the freedom of the younger. The two were born ' thinkers,' each finding the main occupation of his life in study of abstract problems, and each finding in the other a cherished enthusiasm for literature and philosophy. Both spent much time in silent thought; both were noted for ' wealth of conversation' when in a chosen circle of friends, though Smith was prone to silence at times; and each appreciated the variety of powers belonging to the other. Hume's Essay on the Balance of Trade seems to have arrested the attention of Adam Smith, whose deep interest in questions of trade and commerce found quickening here. Smith's bias makes it easy to understand how his attention would be attracted by an argument against the tendency in nations ' to prohibit the exportation of commodities.' How valuable must have seemed to him its fundamental position. ' The more is exported of any commodity, the more will be raised at home, of which they themselves will always have the first offer.' This opened a wide range of common interest. To this and to the more practical side of philosophy, Smith was devoted ; he did not, however, enter with Hume's enthusi asm into the speculative region. Smith was even steadily opposed to Hume's publication of the Dialogues on Religion. Hume had an absorbing devotion to the speculative problems, which led him towards sceptical rather than positive conclusions.

In 1749 Hume returned from the mission to Vienna and Turin; for two years thereafter he was at Ninewells; in 1751 he came to Edinburgh, where the Librarianship of the Advocates' Library opened the way to the preparation of the History. It was at this juncture Smith was elected Professor of Logic in Glasgow. The two were parted, just when the opportunity for regular interviews seemed probable. Such, however, was their devotion to each other, that Smith often came from Glasgow, though the journey in these days occupied thirteen hours. Hume's house was Smith's abode at such times; the summer recess brought to Smith the satisfaction of extended residence in Edinburgh. Their friendship was constant; their co-operation in public enterprise incessant. Smith was transferred to the Chair of Moral Philosophy in 1752, when Hume became a candidate for the Chair of Logic, but without success, since he had roused an adverse feeling which shewed its strength as soon as he sought the position of a public teacher. Smith is constrained to abandon hope of Hume's success; saying to Professor Cullen:—' I would prefer David Hume to any man for the College; but I am afraid the public would not be of my opinion.' Hume had to retire from the conflict a defeated candidate.

Smith gave his interest and effort to the advancement of education in the University of Glasgow, and of literary taste in the city, finding there many willing coadjutors. But it was in Edinburgh that the largest gathering of men outside the University shewed unceasing resolution for advancement of literature, philosophy, science and social organisation. There were Lord Kames (Henry Home); his brother, John Home, minister of Athelstaneford, author of Douglas; Adam Ferguson, Professor of Moral Philosophy; Gilbert Elliot, M.P.; Sir David and Sir John Dalrymple; Robertson, Blair, Alexander Carlyle, William Wilkie, minister of Ratho, and author of the Epigoniad, with many more in the midst of whom Hume and Smith were recognised as the most active and able. Hume with a ' strong and capacious mind,' Smith with a practical sagacity which excelled that of his senior. The three philosophers, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Adam Ferguson had, in all literary circles, the deference to which their distinctive writings entitled them.

On the proposal of Smith, Hume was made a member of ' The Literary Society' of Glasgow. In Edinburgh, Hume was Secretary to ' The Philosophical Society,' afterwards merged in 'The Royal Society.' Smith was elected a member of 'The Philosophical' in 1752.

Smith was a leading spirit in the formation of 'The Select Society' of Edinburgh, constituted on the model of the ' French Academy,' and first proposed by Oswald and Allan Ramsay. Adam Smith made the opening speech explanatory of the objects and constitution. The Society at once gained favour, the membership quickly rising from 15 members, the original number, to 130, including the most illustrious names at a notable period in the history of Scotland. The weekly debates maintained by the Society proved animated and effective. Hume boasts of them that 'the House of Commons was less the object of general curiosity to London than the Select Society is to Edinburgh.' Here young advocates, ministers and literary men, had an arena for distinction, and 'long drawling speakers found out their want of talents.' The range of subjects was wide, chiefly political and economic (Scots Magazine, xix., 163), the limits imposed being indicated by exclusion of ' such as regard revealed religion, or which may give occasion to vent any principles of Jacobitism.'

Out of this Society originated the Edinburgh Society for encouraging art, science, manufactures, and agriculture. In this movement, Hume and Smith had a part, being placed together on the Committee for Belles-Lettres and Criticism.

In the midst of these manifold activities, a restless feeling was stirring in religious circles on account of the unreserved sceptical bias of Hume's works. Campbell {Lives of the Chancellors, vol. vi., 18) describes it as 'a state of extraordinary ferment.' In 1755 Hume and Lord Kames were threatened with a summons to appear before the General Assembly to give account of their published views, and with possible ex-communication. The mover (Anderson) was not influential but he was persistent, and, by careful adherence to form, was able to put the machinery of the Supreme Court of the Church in motion. Hume made light of it all, in his own jaunty way; the member of the College of Justice was more disturbed. They trusted to Robertson, the leader of the House, and to the young advocate, Alexander Wedderburn, then rising into influence, to trace the limits of reasonable ecclesiastical procedure, and to vindicate freedom of thought in the field of literature. The anxiety of the two authors—which appears strange to us—was not unnatural a century and a half ago. Religious faith and feeling had encountered a rude shock from the writings of Hume, and the age was one which gave to the Supreme Court of the Church a wide dominion over all the subjects. A prudent reserve was maintained in the exercise of ecclesiastical authority. The majority of a court, which had dealt hardly with its own members in 1733 and 1752—when pleading in the interests of evangelical religion for the rights of the people in election of their ministers—dealt more leniently with the sceptic and with the speculative thinker on the bench, the latter, indeed, being exempted from the more serious charges advanced. Majorities had been found to depose Ebenezer Erskine and his companions, and also Thomas Gillespie, a few years afterwards, for refusing to share in the induction of ministers presented by the patron but rejected by the people. But when the Assembly were asked ' to call before them' ' one person styling himself David Hume, Esq., who hath arrived at such a degree of boldness as to avow himself the author of books containing the most rude and open attacks on the glorious gospel of Christ,' they declined to exercise their authority—refused to examine his books and to pronounce a formal decision upon them —making in this a beginning in the recognition of that liberty to think and to publish according to conviction, which we now value and deem essential to true progress in thought. But in these days ' the ferment' was serious. The force of religious antagonism to Hume was such that his friend Smith hesitated to associate Hume with other writers in a literary adventure of the time—the institution of the Edinburgh Review, in anticipation of the famous Journal which, under the guidance of Jeffrey, afterwards appeared under the familiar title. The young advocate, just referred to as the defender of Hume in the Assembly, was the Editor of the Edinburgh Review of 1755, a young man of high ability and vast energy, who afterwards rose to be Lord High Chancellor of England, and became Earl of Rosslyn. On the staff of writers there were Adam Smith, Robertson and Blair—all the familiar friends of Hume. The religious antipathy stirring so strongly against him seems to have induced them to hesitate to include him on the staff, and they kept from him the information as to their plans. The object of the Edinburgh Review was 'to shew men at this particular stage of the country's progress the gradual advance of science would be a means of inciting them to a more eager pursuit of learning, to distinguish themselves, and to do honour to their country.' The bare suspicion that Hume was directly concerned in the venture went against its chances of success, and the Review did not get beyond its second number, published January 1756. In 1818, Sir James Mackintosh republished the two numbers, as containing ' the first printed writings of Adam Smith and Robertson, and the only known publication of Lord Chancellor Rosslyn ' (Alexander Wedderburn). In his preface to the republication given in Mackintosh's works, vol. ii., p. 470, Sir James says that 'the temper of the people of Scotland was at that moment peculiarly jealous in every question that approached the boundaries of theology' (p- 473)- Unfortunately the projectors did not feel that their craft was trimmed and manned to face the storm. The Edinburgh Review disappeared, its name reserved for the later and better venture planned in Buccleuch Place by Jeffrey and others in 1802. Hume was too well aware of the antagonism he had roused, the result of acting as one ' desirous of being hated by the public,' to be offended by his exclusion, when the secret came out.

In 1758 Hume made a vigorous effort to get Smith to Edinburgh, as successor to Professor Abercromby in the Chair of Public Law; but Smith declined to think of it, and continued other five years in Glasgow University. The two continued in co-operation exactly as if Edinburgh had been the place of residence for both. Their next joint effort was in a political movement for the advance of their country. The Jacobite rebellion had left in England a sense of distrust of the Scotch, the manifestation of which, in the rejection in 1760 of a Bill for a Scotch militia. The irritation occasioned in Scotland led to the formation of 'The Edinburgh Poker Club 'in 1762. This was a convivial club, with a definite political purpose,— ' the poker' being the symbol of a purpose to stir the fire of agitation against the action of Parliament, and the English prejudices which sustained it in the course taken. The declared object of the Club was to obtain greater security ' for the freedom and independence of these islands.' Hume, Smith and Ferguson were members of the ' Poker,' the words quoted being those of the philosopher last named. Gradually the favour for a standing army extended throughout the nation, and when in 1776 the Scotch Militia Bill of Lord Montstuart was introduced, there was much less complaint over it, even though a militia was granted to Ireland, while it was refused to Scotland.

Shortly after the founding of 'The Poker Club,' Hume had gone to Paris, as Secretary to Lord Hertford, British Ambassador. Hume left hurriedly, and had time only to send to Smith a word of explanation. Smith had been pleading with Hume to visit Glasgow, and Hume, in a vein of pleasantry, in March 1763, writes:—'You maybe sure a journey to Glasgow will be one of the first I shall undertake. I intend to require with great strictness an account of how you have been employing your leisure, and I desire you to be ready for that purpose. Woe be to you if the balance be against you.' By the month of August Hume wrote to tell of his departure for Paris. ' I am a little hurried in my preparations, but I could not depart without bidding you adieu, my good friend, and without acquainting you with the reasons of so sudden a movement.' He closes the letter saying—' We may meet abroad, which will be a great satisfaction to me.' This meeting came sooner than either expected. When Hume had reached Paris, his first letter was to Smith, telling how he had ' suffered as much flattery as almost any man has ever done in the same time,' and he tells him that, under the eye of the Baron d'Holbach, there is one engaged in translating his Theory of Moral Sentiments. In the following October (1763), Smith received a letter proposing that he should accompany the young Duke of Buccleuch, then at Eton, on a continental tour, in course of which education might be blended with travel and relaxation, offering the philosopher ^300 a year while so engaged, and ^300 a year for life thereafter. The Professor accepted, resigned his Moral Philosophy Chair, and turned his face for the first time to the Continent, with the Duke of Buccleuch, and his companion, Sir James Macdonald of Sleat. ' Sir James was heir of the old Lords of the Isles, and son of the lady who, with her factor, Kingsburgh, harboured Prince Charles and Flora Macdonald in Skye' (Rae, Life of Adam Smith, p. 174). The travellers reached Paris in February of 1764, when, during a stay of ten days, most of Smith's time was spent in the company of Hume. Thereafter the time of the Duke of Buccleuch was spent in Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Montpelier. Afterwards he and his tutor came to Geneva, where Smith made the acquaintance of Voltaire, for whose literary ability he had a high admiration. In course of the residence at the different places selected, Smith had much time on his hand. On 5th July 1764, he writes to Hume:—' The life which I led at Glasgow was a pleasurable, dissipated life in comparison of that which I lead here at present. I have begun to write a book, in order to pass away the time.' This is the first reference to the writing of the Wealth of Nations. When the travellers returned to Paris in 1765, Hume had lost his position at the Embassy, and was preparing for his departure, when Rousseau was to go with him to England. Smith's arrival in Paris at this juncture gave opportunity for again spending several days with Hume.

It was not till 1776, the year of Hume's death, that Adam Smith published the Wealth of Nations. Hume took a warm interest in the success of the book, as he had done in the Theory of Moral Sentiments. He wrote his friend expressing in warmest terms his admiration of the book. * It has depth, and solidity, and acuteness, and is so much illustrated by curious facts, that it must at last attract the public attention.' Gibbon, in a letter to Adam Ferguson, described it as ' an extensive science in a single book.' The work arrested public attention in a large degree, commanded careful study from many distinguished parliamentary leaders, supplied the educational influence which prepared for the Free-Trade policy adopted in the mother country of all the English speaking nations, and was accepted as a classic in the literature of Political Science. Hume begins his letter to the author :—' Euge ! Belle !— Dear Mr Smith,—I am much pleased with your performance.' The words were written only a few months before the pen dropped from the writer's hand,—a pen wielded powerfully when arguing for removal of commercial restrictions, pleading for ' that free communication and exchange, which the author of the world has intended by giving them soils, climates, and genuises, so different from each other.'

One cannot tell of Hume's friendships without noting the warm interest manifested by him in the literary labours and successes of his compeers. Whether we refer to Adam Smith, or to Robertson, or to John Home, author of Douglas, we find evidence of his generous admiration and joy in their success. To this must be added his resolute efforts to help forward young aspirants, unknown in literary circles, or battling with difficulties. Witness his efforts for Thomas Blacklock, the blind poet, residing in Dumfries, by whose ' gentle sensitive character and hard fate' he was greatly moved. For ' the son of a poor tradesman' he made strong efforts to clear the way, esteeming as a young man ' of modesty, virtue, and goodness, as well as of genius;' and one who, ' notwithstanding very strict frugality, is in great necessities.' To Blacklock he for a time gave the salary which came to him for his duties at the Advocates' Library, when, having quarrelled with the committee of management, he was preparing for resignation. Another example of enthusiastic effort, in which, however, his goodness of heart outran his caution, is presented in his introduction of Macpherson with his professed 'Ossian' manuscripts to the literary circles of London. Johnson suspected deception from the first, and expressed his disdain in one of his usual outbursts. But Hume did not easily relax his interest, and feeling some pride in the proof of poetic gift among the Highlanders of Scotland, stuck to his protdgd, till doubts came to disturb his own confidence and to weaken his zeal.

When Hume was suddenly transferred to the British Embassy at Paris a quite new social experience opened to him. After being presented at Court, he was, as we have seen, welcomed to the literary gatherings of the French metropolis. He was delighted to find himself in a city where literary merit gave a free pass to the best society, and he was naturally elated by the reception extended to him. Sceptical tendencies presented no barriers, and awakened neither suspicions nor aversions. He was flattered even in little set speeches which struck him as novel; he was ' lionised '; and became noted as ' the Great David.' For a season, he passed through a round of gaiety, not altogether favourable to friendship in its best sense. Only slowly did he succeed in reaching the literary men of Paris in their more familiar gatherings. But at length he secured the friendship of many of the most conspicuous of them, although the duties of his office made it needful to give his chief attention to ' society,' where Court influences could be best considered, and the requirements of an ambassador could be best served.

In Parisian circles, he met a scepticism which outstretched the utmost length of his expressed doubts. On one occasion in Edinburgh he was saluted by a brilliant lady as a Deist, and resented the suggestion, saying that he had no desire to be regarded in this light. On another occasion in Paris, when dining with the Baron d'Holbach, Hume said to his host that he ' had not seen an Atheist, and did not believe that there was one,' to which the Baron replied, ' you are here at table with seventeen.' Hume learned to respect many of these men, but his acquaintance did not induce him to change his deliberately expressed judgment which he was at pains to have published—'Surely nothing can afford a stronger presumption that any set of principles are true, and ought to be embraced, than to observe that they tend to the confirmation of true religion, and serve to confound the cavils of Atheists, Libertines, and Free-thinkers of all denominations.

In Paris, Hume soon became a recognised favourite among the ladies who reigned over the salons where literary men mingled with ladies and gentlemen of high rank. He gained the acquaintance of all these guides of fashion, and his presence was eagerly desired when their invitations were issued. This arose out of the unbounded good humour of the man, his ready delight in the pleasantries of good society, and his willingness, after his first shyness was over, to contribute to the glancing mirth which gave zest to the evening. Out of this sprung also not a few valued friendships; such as come from more serious lines of thought, and common interest in subjects of careful study. Of these the best example appears in his friendship with the Countess de Boufflers. Among the favourites of Court, he found not a few ladies who were ' great readers,' having at the same time ' great sense and an agreeable conversation,' but the Countess de Bouffiers shewed deep interest in his own works, and in all the questions philosophical and political which engrossed his thoughts. Their correspondence, of which a large selection is published, shews the breadth of interest she felt in the great problems of life. Their earlier letters concern largely the persons holding prominent positions, and the books which merited careful study. At a later period the Countess came to make Hume more of a confidant who would feel some direct interest in her ambitions, and, even more certainly, some compassion for her in her disappointments and trials. The Count de Boufflers does not seem to have concerned himself much with the gaieties of his wife. She, feeling the lurements of a gay court, was drawn into intrigue and into clandestine relations with the Prince of Conti which were at first only faintly veiled, and were afterwards accounted as affording a basis for social distinction. After the death of the Count she cherished the further ambitious hope of finding her place as a member of the royal family. The doubts and fears of that dark, silent, restless season, when hope and fear contended with each other, and were constantly supplanting each other, were freely communicated to Hume, and this in manner which touched his compassion, bringing his sympathy into active exercise, in the midst of such opportunities as his official position afforded. Writing on 28th November 1764, he assures her that he has kept ' eyes and ears open with regard to everything that concerns her affair.' He even goes so far as to report from ' the best informed ' an impression ' that a resolution had been taken in her favour,' fanning the flame of ambition soon to be damped and to die out. Such a friendship was not to be lost sight of; the Countess clung to it with great confidence ; and, even after hope had been displaced by the bitterness of disappointment, she received gratefully Hume's counsel as coming from one who had expressed deep compassion for her ' in her present melancholy situation,' when having been seemingly brought ' within reach of honour and felicity,' she is slowly but surely being lowered into overwhelming dismay. Then he counsels courage, and the firm resolution of one who has nerved herself for the supreme effort of breaking off an alliance which is closing in sword-thrusts, endangering to health, and fatal to the peace and hope of an honourable life. With a feeling altogether suitable to the occasion, he writes—' The measure which I recommend to you requires courage, but I dread that nothing else will be able to prevent the consequences so justly apprehended' (Private Corr. of D. Hutne, published 1820, p. 112 ; Burton, II., p. 249). So much did the Countess in the calmer hours of later years value the friendship of so faithful yet sympathetic a counsellor, that correspondence was maintained by her after Hume had finally returned to his own land. She even became in turn a truly sympathetic friend of the Scottish philosopher when disaster fell on his relations with Rousseau (Private Correspondence, cf. p. 171, p. r86).

To Voltaire and Rousseau, the literary rivals dividing the honours of the day, Hume was naturally attracted on account of their conspicuous ability. His interest in them was further quickened by his own intellectual bias in favour of a sceptical tendency. He felt besides, notwithstanding the reckless extravagance of their writings, that a service was being done in a very rude manner, and too often in a blasphemous spirit in breaking up the dominion of evil traditions, and preparing the way for the freedom and breadth of thought which must be the conditions of progress.

Hume never came into close friendship with Voltaire. From his private correspondence it is clear that he had a great admiration of ' the many fine things' in Voltaire's writings. But circumstances did not favour close intimacy. Hume was, indeed, in thorough agreement with Voltaire in his antagonism to the Church of Rome, because of its fostering of superstition among the people, licentiousness among the priests, and intolerance towards all who valued freedom of thought. To this extent the two were in full sympathy. But Hume had learned at an early stage in his experience as a servant of the British Crown, that Voltaire was reckless and virulent in assault, and relentless in spirit. Hume's judgment was this :—' He never forgives, and never thinks any enemy below his notice' (Burton, II., 195). Yet, when Hume found himself rising into general popularity in France, he felt it desirable to seek somewhat friendly relations with Voltaire. In a letter to Colonel Edmonstoune, written from Paris on 9th January 1764, he says, ' when I arrived in Paris all M. Voltaire's friends told me of the regard he always expressed for me; that some advances on my part were due to his age, and would be well taken. I accordingly wrote him a letter in which I expressed the esteem undoubted due to his talents ; and among other things I said that if I were not confined to Paris by public business, I should have a great ambition to pay him a visit at Geneva' (Burton, II., 184). But no great intimacy sprung up between them. Geneva was too far distant from Paris; Hume was too closely held by the demands of his secretarial duties; and they do not seem to have met. There was, however, mutual interest and regard which found occasional expression. When the outburst of Rousseau's wrath brought Hume into serious trouble, Voltaire wrote a letter, dated Ferney, 24th October 1766, to express his sympathy, mingled with ready sarcasm directed against Rousseau (Voltaire's CEuvres, ed. 1789, lxiv., 49s ; Burton, II., 358).

With Rousseau, Hume came into close and most friendly relations, attracted not only by his brilliant gifts, but also by compassion for his many sorrows, and specially by sympathy of most direct and active form when persecution threatened him with loss of liberty. Rousseau had enjoyed at an earlier stage a period of quiet peaceful experience when he found satisfaction in literary work. This was the Montmorency period, when he enjoyed the friendly and generous interest of the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg, and had the satisfaction of meeting many of the highest rank in France. But when Hume came to know him, Rousseau had fallen on evil times. A trying combination of circumstances made his life miserable. He was as much as ever the brilliant writer, the flashes of whose wit and genius delighted his countrymen; but the author was wretched, as one driven to bay and tormented. This bitter experience was largely due to his own lack of self-control. He had the sad inheritance of an excitable nervous temperament inducing miserable recklessness; his domestic life did nothing to soothe or elevate daily experience; his own self-indulgent irresolute spirit constantly aggravated his troubles. Many in high rank did much to abate his sorrows; but the rulers of the nation suspected his evil influence, and threatened him with condign restraint; while popular applause brought occasional relief and brightness, it could not bring deliverance from the growing burden of life. He grew increasingly irritable, suspicious, and miserable; this evil spirit of unrest was aggravated by sarcasm levelled against his vanity, and by practical jokes, the worst of which was perpetrated by Horace Walpole who wrote him a letter of large promise assuming the semblance and signature of the Great Frederick of Prussia. Rousseau was maddened by these things, and was gradually moving on a dangerous incline towards insanity.

Hume proved a warm-hearted generous friend who stood by Rousseau in these days of trouble. Hume's sympathy soothed the fevered brain, irritated by miseries, real and imaginary, and it animated the disturbed life by inspiring fresh hope. The Scotchman who had thought of forsaking his own country in order to settle in France, became the adviser of the French litterateur counselling withdrawal from his country, and promising a safe retreat in England. He, who gave the counsel, was ready to undertake guidance and responsibility. So it happened that when Hume's time for leaving France had come, at the close of 1765, Rousseau had arrived in Paris to act in accordance with his friend's suggestion, and, as it happened, to travel with him to England. He had in Hume a true friend whose feelings were thus expressed, ' I must own I felt on this occasion an emotion of pity, mixed with indignation, to think a man of letters of such eminent merit should be reduced in spite of the simplicity of his manner of living to such extreme indigence; and that this unhappy state should be rendered more intolerable by sickness, by the approach of old age, and the implacable rage of persecution' (Burton, II., 296). To his burdened life the prospect of an English home seemed an escape from a load of woe. He arrived in Paris a marked man, outlawed by Parliament, yet sheltered by the Prince of Conti, strange in appearance, wearing an American dress, dreaded by the ruling authorities, idolised by the people who were moving towards their own paroxysm of madness. When the popular enthusiasm was roused it began to overflow in tumultuous fashion, involving the retiring secretary of the British Embassy in a situation not the most comfortable. Escape from it was agreeable to Rousseau himself as well as to Hume, and early in January 1766, the now miserable object of popular admiration, passes away from the view of the excited Parisians, under the friendly guidance of ' the Great David.' Hume's judgment of his unfortunate protdgd is very favourable, and his compassion for him deep. ' I find him mild and gentle, and modest and good humoured '; ' his judgment and affections are as strongly biassed in my favour as mine are in his.' Those who knew well the characteristics of the author of Emile warned Hume that he ' could not conduct him to Calais without a quarrel.' But the warm-hearted friend discredited such evil prognostications, and writes—' I think I could live with him all my life in mutual friendship and esteem. I am very sorry that the matter is not likely to be put to trial!' (Burton, II., 310).

These two fast friends arrived in London in safety. Rousseau became the object of popular interest, and was welcomed by many of high rank. By the intervention of Hume, he received a pension from the King, and besides this, Hume succeeded in awakening a lively interest in the French genius in the heart of his friend, Mr Davenport of Davenport, who generously placed at Rousseau's command as a dwelling, ' the mansion of Wooton, in Derbyshire, surrounded by scenery not unlike that which he had left behind him in the Jura.' All was accomplished that Hume had foreshadowed, and in a manner as exact as if the whole had been arranged in the routine of ordinary business, with resources ample. If surroundings can make the future, all is in proper course. But Rousseau is only a silent volcano; woe betide all concerned when the lava bursts forth! A favourable retreat has been found for the great genius, before whom 'Voltaire and everybody else are quite eclipsed.' Hume had reason to be proud of his success, as the friend who had cleared the way out of a forest of troubles. But what of the restless, tumultuous nature in 'the mansion of Wooton,' accustomed to outbursts of popular applause, and also to deep and troubled brooding over his miseries? He is an utter stranger in the land, comparatively unfamiliar with the language of the people around, who did not at all understand him. He begins to feel himself as one banished from his own land, a dead ocean all around him, and not even a ripple of applause breaking at his feet, not a sound of sympathy falling on his ear. He is a man withal who ' writes and speaks, and acts from the impulse of genius, and who forgets its force when it is laid asleep,' weaker then than common mortals, quickly roused to jealousy and suspicion, the victim of distorted fancies; feeling now as one chilled by heartless neglect, and again wincing under acute pain as one who has been scourged with scorpions. What is a quiet dwelling? what is a peaceful neighbourhood to him? Who is Hume that he should shape his cause, and arrange for him in all things, as if he were incapable? What is the pension of the King of Britain to an illustrious Frenchman? Hume, his professed friend, is a traitor, in secret collusion with all his foes who mock at his calamities. As for himself, he has been deluded, caught like a fox in a trap, and appointed to death. If he has as much strength in him as to make an effort, he will effect his escape, and pass away from the gaze of the English eye, and the control of English hands. Suddenly he takes to flight, as if all were reality, his wrath blazing specially against Hume. He flees from place to place; writes from a halting place to the general commanding the forces to warn him that if he be secretly assassinated, the deed will be found out; but if he is allowed to escape, and lands once more on French soil, he will be forgiving, and will not publish an account of the wrongs perfidious Albion has done to one of France's most notable sons.

To Hume the occurrence was matter of overwhelming concern; when Rousseau's angry denunciations came to him, he was stung to the quick, and resented them with fiery indignation as if they were the words of a sane man. Even after the flight had been traced stage by stage, after the extravagant fears of the wanderer were known, Hume could not be calm—could not take the advice of Adam Smith, to write nothing. He retorts with unrestrained indignation to Rousseau. He is so disturbed that he writes in all directions to friends at home, and to friends in France, to vindicate himself from the charge of false-heartedness. The large mass of correspondence in possession of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, shews how deeply and sorely he was troubled, as if all that he held dear had been suddenly wrenched from his grasp, leaving him a suspected, if not a discredited man. One needs to remember how deeply, and very tenderly, Hume had felt in his sympathy for Rousseau; and, on the other hand, how much the occurrence had become the theme of continued remark in society, British and French; in order to understand the tumult of disturbed feeling rushing through the heart of Hume. The quiet, strong words of a true and sagacious friend were lost upon him. He felt as one feels who thinks and feels and repeats that he ' does well to be angry.'

The worst storm stills at length. The friends irritated and alienated, if they could not be reconciled, grew calm, and took in the situation. The enmity between them was a bitter experience for both, leaving pitiful wreckage along the shore. This is the expression of quieter reflection which Rousseau penned:—' My soul, wearied with so many shocks, was in a condition of such profound melancholy, that in all that passed I believe I committed many faults.' Hume proves equally ready to acknowledge his regret to Adam Smith, on 17th October 1767, saying, after a review of the occurrence :—' I may apologise for a step, which you, and even myself, have been inclined sometimes to blame, and always to regret' (M.S., R.S.E.—Burton, II., 380).

Hume once more, though only for a brief period, passed into the service of Government. In February 1767, Mt Conway nominated him as Under-Secretary, in which office he continued until the change of Government in July 1768. Hume was assigned to the Northern Province, under which were included our relations with Prussia, Russia, Austria, Hamburg and Brussels. At this time he must besides have had much to say as to

Scotch affairs. Of this time he says :—' My way of life here is very uniform, and by no means disagreeable. I pass all the forenoon in the Secretary's house from ten till three, where there arrive from time to time messengers that bring me all the secrets of the Kingdom, and indeed of Europe, Asia, Africa and America.' ' My Chief is the most reasonable, equal tempered, and gentleman-like man imaginable.' With change of Government he passed from his agreeable post, and prepared to return to Edinburgh, there to spend the remainder of his days. He says in My Own Life 'I returned to Edinburgh in 1769, very opulent (for I possessed a revenue of 1000 a-year), healthy, and though somewhat stricken in years, with the prospect of enjoying long my ease, and of seeing the increase of my reputation.' He was now nearly sixty years of age. He entered again on occupancy of his familiar home in St James's Court, in the Lawnmarket; and from his lofty perch, looking across the Firth of Forth to the Fife Coast, he writes to Adam Smith :— 'I am glad to have come within sight of you, and to have a view of Kirkcaldy from my windows.' He forthwith settled quietly into his familiar ways; shortly afterwards, writing to Sir Gilbert Elliot, he says:—' I have been settled here two months, and am here body and soul, without casting the least thought of regret to London, or even to Paris.' He continued in the old house for about a year, while the building of his new house was being carried forward, after which he removed to his home, at the head of St David Street, where he spent his few remaining years—where, when inroads of disease had brought him low, he had his last dinnerparty of friends on the day after his return from Bath, and where he died only a few weeks thereafter. These closing years were spent very pleasantly in the midst of the circle of familiar friends. He did not continue to write letters so freely as he had been wont to do; but his interest in the whole circle of philosophical, historical, and political questions continued lively and keen as in the earlier years; and he enjoyed, with all the well-known zest, unrestrained talk and discussion among familiar friends.

In the early part of 1775, Hume began to own that some sense of failing health had crept over him, and had been growing for several years previously. Disease had not yet assumed definite form, but constitutional predisposition was preparing the way. He noted this as a warning of the coming end, and now began to include in his plans arrangements preparatory. He placed himself under the care of his medical adviser, Dr Black, who took a serious view of his complaint; he prepared instructions as to disposal of his papers, specially expressing solicitude as to the publication of the Dialogues Concerning Religion, and carried through a considerable correspondence on this matter, when his friend Adam Smith indicated reluctance to pledge himself to carry out his purpose.

Between the spring of 1775 and that of the following year the disease had made considerable progress. Hume writes thus in My Own Life as to this period, considering his disorder had ' become mortal and incurable.' ' I now reckon on a speedy dissolution. I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and, what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment's abatement of my spirits; insomuch that were I to name the period of my life which I should most choose to pass over again, I might be tempted to point to this latter period. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company. I consider, besides, that a man of sixty-five, by dying cuts off only a few years of infirmities; and though I see many symptoms of my literary reputation's breaking out at last with additional lustre, I know that I could have but few years to enjoy it. It is difficult to be more detached from life than I am at present.'

When in April 1776 symptoms of rapidly declining strength had appeared, Dr Black wrote to Adam Smith, who was then in London, where also John Home was, urging him to come to Edinburgh. ' I wish, if possible, to hasten your coming, that he may have the comfort of your company so much the sooner.' Adam Ferguson wrote to the same effect, saying,—' David, I am afraid, loses ground.' Smith and Home set off together about the middle of April, hoping to meet the doctor's wishes, and give some comfort in the closing days. At the same time, a reverse course was planned by Hume, on account of the suggestion that a visit to Bath might prove beneficial. His Autobiography had been finished just two days, when he wrote to Strahan, 20th April 1776,—'My body sets out to-morrow by post for London; but whether it will arrive there is somewhat uncertain. I shall travel by slow journeys. Last Monday I sent off by the waggon, directed to Mr Cadel, the four last volumes of my History. I bring up my philosophical Pieces corrected, which will be safe, whether I die by the road or not' (Letters to Strahan, G. B. Hill, p. 319).

Very fortunately for the invalid traveller, his two friends, Adam Smith and John Home, met him at Morpeth, where they saw ' his servant, Colin, at the gate of the inn.' They had reached their friend sooner than they had expected, and spent the night with him. Adam Smith there received tidings of the serious illness of his mother, and had to hasten forward to Kirkcaldy. John Home went with Hume, going by Durham, Darlington, Boroughbridge, Northallerton, and Ferrybridge. After resting at London, he proceeded to Bath, where during the first four days he seemed to improve, but he soon relapsed to the former condition, when he resolved on the return journey, arriving in Edinburgh in the beginning of July.

In August, Adam Smith writes, ' Mr Hume's magnanimity and firmness were such, that his most affectionate friends knew that they hazarded nothing in talking or writing to him as to a dying man, and that so far from being hurt by this frankness, he was rather pleased and flattered by it.'

Hume himself, five days before his death, writing to the Comtesse de Boufflers, says:—' I see death approach gradually, without any anxiety or regret.'

On the 23rd August he writes to Smith, who had gone to Kirkcaldy :—' My Dearest Friend,—I am obliged to make use of my nephew's hand in writing to you, as I do not rise to-day. . . .

'I go very fast to decline, and last night had a small fever, which I hoped might put a quicker period to this tedious illness; but, unluckily, it has, in a great measure, gone off. I cannot submit to your coming over here on my account, as it is possible for me to see you so small a part of the day; but Doctor Black can better inform you concerning the degree of strength which may, from time to time, remain with me. Adieu.'

The letter from the doctor is dated ' Edinburgh, 26th August 1776' (Burton, II., p. 515), and runs as follows :—

'Dear Sir,—Yesterday, about four o'clock, afternoon Mr Hume expired. The near approach of his death became evident in the night between Thursday and Friday, when his disease became excessive, and soon weakened him so much that he could no longer rise out of his bed. . . . He never dropped the smallest expression of impatience; but, when he had occasion to speak to the people about him, always did it with affection and tenderness. . . . When he became very weak, it cost him an effort to speak; and he died in such a happy composure of mind that nothing could exceed it.'


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